Indian scientist Dr Anil R Diwan develops bird flu drug

Wednesday, 9 November 2005 - 9:32pm IST

The key intellectual property on which the new drug is based is a flexible nanomaterial that contains an encapsulated active pharmaceutical ingredient.

A novel medication called a nanoviricide, being developed by Westhaven, Connecticut-based NanoViricides, Inc, is likely to prove much more efficacious in treating patients infected by the deadly Avian flu than current favourites like oseltamivir (TamiFlu) of Roche and zanamivir (Relenza) of GlaxoSmithKline.

The key intellectual property on which the new drug is based is a flexible nanomaterial that contains an encapsulated active pharmaceutical ingredient and, using a ligand , targets it to a specific type of virus.

There is an Indian connection to this. The inventor of this nanomaterial is Dr Anil R Diwan a B.Tech from IIT, Bombay and PhD from Rice University, USA. He holds a US patent on his older polymeric micelle technologies, with his colleagues at University of Massachusetts. He continued to work further in the field, to develop nanomaterials that are capable of multi-specific multi-targeting of viruses, and at the same time capable of encapsulating active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) in industry-leading payload capacities. This new work has resulted in nanomaterials called “TheraCour” (therapeutic courier).

NanoViricides, Inc., where Dr Diwan is the President, has a full license to TheraCour technologies for developing nanotechnology-based targeted anti-viral therapeutics. The company went public earlier this year when it was acquired by Miami-based, Inc. In an e-mail interview, Dr Diwan pointed out that the existing drugs for treating Avian flu are not efficient because they do not work for all of the patient population, but only in a fraction of patients, they lead to a multiplicity of resistant strains in anywhere from 1% to 10% of patients or more, and with influenza, reassortment is an additional scary possibility when poorly efficacious drugs are used.

Diwan believes that FluCide will be far more effective than TamiFlu, for both prophylaxis and treatment due to its comprehensive destruction of the virus particle and being safely metabolised in the body after accomplishing the job.

Immunotherapies like vaccines require the body’s immune system to be in a very good state and require the body’s immune system cells to participate in clearing up the infection. The antibodies only ‘tag’ the virus to identify it to the defence system. FluCide does not require the body’s immune system to participate at all. It is expected to work via multiple concerted mechanisms. It first binds to the virus particle like a Velcro tape, rather than through a single point attachment like other influenza drugs. This causes FluCide to completely envelop and engulf the virus particle, so that it can no longer infect a cell.

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